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It's no news to anyone reading this newsletter that fruits and vegetables contain essential vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and fiber that are key to good health. Now, a newly released study by Agricultural Research Service (ARS)-funded scientists suggests plant foods also may help preserve muscle mass in older men and women.

The typical American diet is rich in foods that generate tiny amounts of acid each day. With aging, a mild but slowly increasing metabolic "acidosis" develops, according to the researchers.

Foods can be considered alkaline or acidic not just based on whether they are alkaline or acidic themselves, but by the residues they produce in the body. It's counter-intuitive, but that's how it works. For example, grapefruits are acidic, but they're metabolized to alkaline residues. Same with lemons.

Acidosis appears to trigger a muscle-wasting response. In the new study, the researchers looked at links between measures of lean body mass and diets relatively high in potassium-rich, alkaline-residue producing fruits and vegetables. Such diets could help neutralize acidosis.

Volunteers whose diets were rich in potassium could expect to have 3.6 more pounds of lean tissue mass than volunteers with half the higher potassium intake. That's unbelievably impressive, and virtually offsets the 4.4 pounds of lean tissue that is typically lost in a decade in healthy men and women aged 65 and above. (And remember, losing muscle mass also slows your metabolism and calorie-burning ability leading to weight gain.)

Take it from someone who turns 62 this year- preserving your muscle is one of the best strategies for staying young and healthy. So besides doing all the standard things- like weight training- eat your vegetables and fruits on a regular basis. No matter what dietary strategy you follow- from raw foods to high protein- vegetables (and some fruits) belong on your daily menu.
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